A poignant remembrance service attended by war veterans and their families flared into a political row after a Ukip candidate laid a wreath on behalf of his party.
Steve Newton, who will stand in the Chatham and Aylesford constituency in next year’s general election, placed his floral tribute, embellished with his party’s branding, at the memorial in Victoria Gardens, Chatham, yesterday.
The gesture angered his fellow politicians. Chatham MP Tracey Crouch and Medway Council Labour group leader Vince Maple branded it “distasteful” and “totally inappropriate”.
Miss Crouch said: “In all the many years I have been coming to this lovely service, I have never known it to be party political. It is quite disgusting that Ukip have jumped on this.”
Cllr Maple, who represents Chatham Central ward, said: “It totally goes against the ethos of what this particular ceremony is about.
“The Chatham service is the people’s service. It is not about politics.”
Richard Waghorne, Ukip’s press officer, said: “I can’t see the significance of the complaint. I have just seen David Cameron lay a wreath at the Cenotaph.”
The confrontation comes less than a fortnight before the crucial by-election, and the signs are that the campaign could turn ugly.
The Conservatives, who are at longer odds to win than Ukip, have issued a video attacking Ukip candidate Mark Reckless ahead of the poll next Thursday.
Ukip is on course to win the by-election because three out of five people who failed to vote in 2010 now support the party, according to a leading academic.
Matthew Goodwin, an associate professor of politics at the University of Nottingham, told The Times newspaper their return to the polling stations in the by-election on November 20 would be a crucial factor in the party’s likely triumph.
Dr Goodwin said the failure of Labour to campaign heavily in the seat had allowed Ukip to win over left-leaning voters.
Stories you might have missed